Be My Sweet Darling, first published in Korea in 2003 by Daiwon C.I., is a short, 240-gm (the weight is indicative) shôjo or whatever is its Korean equivalent manhwa series by Do-ChAn who shares at the end of volume one that her (I assume, despite the androgynous caricature) pen-name comes by way of Laruku's Hyde (romanized into Haido » shortened into Ido » fangirled into Ido-chan » and finally abbreviated as Do-ChAn). The Indonesian translation was released sometime last year by Elex Media.
True to its name (the manhwa, not Do-ChAn), the series begs for emotional investment by pleading twee, but with leads nearer to flimsy, promptly takes a header into the pit that is Okay To Pass The Time With If The Series You're Following Hasn't Released Its Latest Installment. Be that as it may, My Sweet Darling graduates into a somewhat antithetically enjoyable read, props to its supporting characters who deserve more than the limited panels they received in the course of this three-volume manhwa.
But before I lose reader interest (not that I have many, I know) with the premature babbling about charas, lemme proceed with this review methodically.
Yu NanHee and Jang KukYong are high school kids who belong to their school's drama club, the latter having been conscripted because of his calculating (as in math) skills. NanHee heads the club and tsundere that she is, disses and bosses KukYong constantly because she likes him. Mild-mannered-though-no-Clark-Kent bishounen KukYong doesn't react and gardens whenever he has the spare time (as in during lunch).
NanHee and KukYong end up married (think Honey Mustard instead of Goong) due to contrived circumstances involving underage drinking, puking, love confessing, toppling over and hitting head on desk and fainting, and parents arriving at the boy's place the morning after to find our couple near-nekkid.
This forces them to lead secret married lives while still continuing school.
KukYong For a male lead, KukYong (named after the late HK actor Leslie Cheung, which Do-ChAn kept as homage after the actor's suicide) is extremely hard to pin down. He's neither the dominant alpha nor sensitive beta hero. If I had to designate him using the Greek alphabet, I would stick an omicron—complete with the problematic debates that accompany this is-it-zero-or-not symbol—on his forehead. Of course doing so might grant him more substance than his creator intended, omicron being equal to 70, after all. But numerical nitpicking aside, what is clear is that KukYong doesn't resemble any romantic manhwa lead I've crossed paths with (some would say this is an accomplishment).
Despite his shiftiness in being categorized, KukYong's not mold-breaking. He's a a gardening hero like Kouki in Imadoki! and Arou in Mekakushi no Kuni. He evinces some of the cluelessness paraded by Fujioka Kyouhei from Haruta Nana's Cactus Secret (Saboten no Himitsu)—although not to the extent where it becomes the kawaii comedy (wince-worthy blah-ness is more the standard). This is because KukYong is cipher extraordinaire. Unlike Cactus' Kyouhei's interactions with the mad-about-you Miku, KukYong doesn't (even accidentally), "retaliate" against NanHee, which pretty much renders the two's face-offs as thrilling as a spoiled mystery.
In short, beyond his pretty-boyishness, KukYong doesn't seem to have much going for him.
NanHee Like KukYong and unlike KumJi (Chocolat) and HyeMin (Cynical Orange), initially-but-it's-only-on-the-surface tuff girl NanHee doesn't have much to recommend to her either. A high-maintenance nightmare, she displays the worst excesses of a stereotypically clingy and jealous wife. For instance, she reveals just how needy she is by gifting KukYong with a cell phone—just so that she can always call her husband. Yes, even during school hours. When NanHee finds KukYong has given his cell number to another girl (
It's mine, isn't it?), she grabs the phone and drops it into an aquarium (Eclair from Ouran High School Host Club, anyone?).
Later, because of some sob story from dad, she apologizes to KukYong for being the telemarketing nuisance she has been. Too good to be believed and already henpecked KukYong readily forgives her, even agreeing to her new stipulations without protest:
- He will always answer her calls.
- He will never turn off the phone.
- He will never give out his number.
KukYong nearly gets away with not pandering to NanHee's selfishness (the phone's sleeping with the fishes, remember?) but NanHee gets them a pair of walkie-talkies instead.
She really lives up to her name which Do-ChAn sez means
luar biasa cerewet (astoundingly carpy and fault-finding).
The brighter side In NanHee's defense, I would like to say that I actually like the sans-apology portrayal of her, psychotic possessiveness and all. And she's not that unlovable: when the couple goes to Ganghua for Christmas holidays with KukYong's parents, NanHee defends KukYong's younger sister KukHee to Mrs. Jang who favorites the more brilliant male sib.
KukYong too is not altogether the hero-to-zero character. After being criticized by his wife for not paying attention to li'l sis' problems, he goes to KukHee and tries to comfort her in his
vapid own way by inviting her to go to school in Seoul.
But it remains writ in eye-popping and speechless large that the supporting characters make this manhwa more worth the read.
KukHee From my first ogle at KukHee on the cover for chapter four, it was wub at first sight.
KukHee comes to visit her brother and faster than the train she just stepped off zooming out of Seoul Station, gets lost in one of the world's biggest cities (you already know what's coming, even if I don't tell you that the chapter illustration has a cosplaying KukHee facing a big, bad, costumed wolf). She asks directions from a good-looking bystander who then gallantly offers to accompany her to her destination. KukHee shoulda twigged when the zippered-sweatshirt-jacketed knight to her prim-sweatered damsel in distress refused to help with her luggage, despite having observed that it must be heavy, and ushers her on board a train. Instead, KukHee sits there in a daze, thinking, What a pretty ocean... as the coastline zips past.
Funnily enough, Kukhee's behavior didn't raise the too dumb to live flag; it should have, but I was prolly being more generous than my usual (I customarily am with the elderly, the marginalized, and Li'l Red Riding Hoods—gosh, did that sound as patronizing as I think it did? Gomen...) Anyhoo, our anachronistic heroine for this chapter and the next finally realizes that the watery vista is out of place but still gets on another train (gee, genre blind much?) with her "helpful" escort and lands at the port of Incheon. At this overdue point, she charges the young man with prevarication and he admits that yes, he is a liar. He then advises KukHee to follow whatever he sez, otherwise, he will $@!&!%?? her, a prospect that makes KukHee faint.
When KukHee comes to, KukYong and wife NanHee are looming over her. Her relief at seeing big brother and escaping a fate worse than $@!&!%?? however, is lopped off when she is introduced to NanHee's uncle (same age as his niece), the person who allegedly found her unconscious in front of the house—Yu Jemin.
Because, obviously, Jemin is none other than KukHee's wolf ^^
Jemin Another wub at initial gape, this time because of my predictable thing for light-haired bishounen, regardless of the truism that white haired pretty boys (I don't have any other color reference to go with) are invariably evil. And Jemin is. A thoroughly magnificent b*stard and to KukHee, the devil in plain sight, Jemin plays these variations on the trickster theme with heart-palpitating and stylish aplomb. We might not always know what he really wants, but sometimes he hints at his true nature (his t-shirt reads: KINKY: BE ALL YOU CAN BE and I don't think that's a Freudian slip, either on Jemin's part or on the part of his manga-ka).
Conniving Jemin has his reasons for ditching dorm life and crashing at house no. 128 (not simply to spy on the newly-married couple like KukHee uncovers), but whatever they are and whatever plans he may or may not have with KukHee, they give the tale a shot that rouses it from the undead and saves Sweet Darling from being the blandest of milquetoaste stories.
A relationship-driven story, you would espy a plot only if you squint. A lot. The series basically tracks KukYong and NanHee's ho-hum romance. Giving my own Friends-inspired titles to the chapters would probably suffice to fork over an idea of where Sweet Darling is headed.
Be My Sweet Darling manhwa volume 1
- The one where KukYong and NanHee marry
- The one where NanHee's friend visits
- The one with the cell phone
- The one with Li'l Red Riding Hood
- The one where Jemin eavesdrops
- The one where NanHee tries to kiss KukYong in a swan boat
- The one where NanHee tries to one-up KukYong during the exams
- The one where NanHee spends Christmas with the in-laws
- The one where KukYong tells KukHee to also go to Seoul
Basic manhwa style with the marble eyes and willowy chara designs, but nowhere as pretty as Pretty (by Pink, published originally by Seoul Cultural Publishers, Inc.) or differentiated-in-that-it-looks-like-Japanese-manga-Hakusensha's-at-that President Dad. Panel layouts are more shounen-y than shôjo-ish. The cover looks like it's been vectored quite a bit.
Chemistry there ain't between NanHee and KukYong (I sed ho-hum, I did) but Jemin x KukHee has a science-lab-full of it. It must be that rogue vs innocent thing.
~nik who's wondering if Do-ChAn wrote a series starring Jemin and KukHee
Be My Sweet Darling is © by Do-ChAn, Daiwon C.I. Inc. First published in Korea in 2003, 2004. Indonesian copyright by PT Elex Media Komputindo. No infringement intended.